Appeal may be limited to those children with “eyes as wide as the Texas skies.” (Picture book. 4-6)

READ REVIEW

THE TEXAS NUTCRACKER

A late-19th-century U.S. Army fort is the setting for this retelling of the Nutcracker ballet.

Centennia, a white girl with sausage curls, and her freckled brother, Caleb, are eagerly awaiting a Christmas party at Fort Davis, Texas. The guests at the party include Col. Grierson, who gives Centennia a wooden nutcracker. Jealous, Caleb damages the nutcracker. In the middle of the night, Centennia returns to the parlor, where suddenly the tree, the nutcracker, and all of the toys begin to grow. Centennia is nearly overpowered by rattlesnakes, but the swashbuckling nutcracker comes to her rescue. He magically becomes a handsome soldier who takes Centennia to a fantasy land of Texas treats. There she meets the “Bluebonnet Fairy” and witnesses the “Dance of the Mockingbirds,” square-dancing armadillos, and the “Waltz of the Wildflowers.” Pedantic storytelling and undistinguished illustrations make this an unexceptional book. An author’s note with facts about Fort Davis and the historical figure of Col. Grierson, who began the regiment of the so-called buffalo soldiers, provides background for the presence at the fort of two nonwhite characters, a soldier and a little boy. It does not, however, address the pueblo within which the dances are performed.

Appeal may be limited to those children with “eyes as wide as the Texas skies.” (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2331-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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This retro salute to friendship simply tries to be too much to be successful—it does not hold a candle to McGhee's prior...

MAKING A FRIEND

The early-children’s-book feel of Rosenthal’s pencil-and-digital illustrations is what will first strike readers of McGhee’s rather morose celebration of the forever nature of friendship.

A young boy looks forward to winter’s snowy fun. When it finally arrives, he crafts the perfect snowman friend, complete with nose, mouth, eyes, arms and the bright-red ball cap taken from his own head. He labels him, “My Snowman.” But while it is obvious that the boy spends some time admiring the snowman, the wordless pages devoted to their relationship fail to develop it fully, and readers may be left wondering why he is so sad when spring melts his friend. Where is he? Intuiting concepts beyond his apparent years, the boy finds his friend in the falling water and rain, in the fog and frost (although it is never explained to young readers how this is scientifically so), proving that McGhee’s unsubtly stated message is true: “What you love will always be with you.” And when the seasons come full circle, the two are reacquainted. Rosenthal’s illustrations are blotches of color on a stark white background, echoing the wintry setting and the boy’s sorrow, as well as the sparseness of the slow-paced text.

This retro salute to friendship simply tries to be too much to be successful—it does not hold a candle to McGhee's prior works such as Someday or Little Boy, both illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (2007, 2008) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8998-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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